South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust is reminding family and friends of patients that they can still keep in touch with loved ones through virtual visiting or through the Trust’s #SendingLove scheme.


Due to the rise of COVID-19 in the community and hospital admissions, the Trust had to take the very difficult decision to once again temporarily suspend visiting across all of its adult inpatient wards back in September. The move was taken to protect staff and patients, many of whom are vulnerable and at higher risk of serious complications from COVID-19.


Despite the restrictions, the Trust continues to keep loved ones connected and has provided iPads for patients in its hospitals who do not have the means to contact family and friends so they can visit virtually. Letters, messages and photos are also still being delivered to patients through the Trusts #SendingLove scheme. Full details of the scheme can be found on the Trust website


Pregnant women are also still able to have one named person with them for routine scan appointments and during labour. This is something that has remained the same throughout COVID-19 despite the changes in restrictions.


Melanie Johnson, Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals at the Trust is asking family and friends of patients to support the hospital’s busy teams at this time by nominating one family member or friend to contact ward teams for updates.


Melanie said: “We completely understand how difficult and frustrating it is not being able to visit loved ones in hospital at the moment, but the safety of our patients and staff has to be our first priority and we must do all we can to protect them from COVID-19, particularly during our busy winter months. Our teams are working hard to safely care for all of our patients and are extremely busy. This unfortunately means that we are not always able to answer calls as quickly as we would like. You can support us by calling wards after 10am and by nominating one person to contact us who can then relay information to other family and friends.


“We really hope that restrictions will help to reduce the infections in our community and in turn reduce hospital admissions so we can start to ease visiting restrictions and bring families and friends back together. We all need to do our bit and follow the government guidance around staying at home, wearing and face mask, washing hands and social distancing. It is vital we pull together to minimise the spread of COVID-19 and protect our most vulnerable people and of course our NHS services.”


While visiting is not allowed at this time, there are exceptional circumstances which include:

  • Patients receiving end of life care (visiting arrangements will be at the discretion of the nurse in charge)
  • Women in labour will be able to have one birthing partner and one person to accompany them at routine scan appointments only
  • One parent or carer will be able to accompany children in our children’s emergency department, children’s wards and neonatal unit
  • Patients with dementia, a learning disability or autism and those who require a carer will be able to have one person accompanying them

All outpatients and those coming into the Emergency Departments at South Tyneside District Hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital are asked to attend alone and are reminded that they will need to wear a face mask, practice excellent hand hygiene and maintain social distancing at all times. Anyone with an urgent or emergency eye problem is reminded not to turn up at Sunderland Eye Infirmary Emergency Department and instead to contact the 24/7 emergency telephone number on 0191 5699952 for specialist advice and a time to attend in person if required.


Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus, include a high temperature, new continuous cough and a loss or change in your sense of taste and smell are asked not to come into Trust premises. If you experience any of these symptoms, you must isolate immediately and call 119 and arrange for a test. If you develop symptoms your household contacts will also be required to self-isolate. More information on self-isolation is available on the NHS website